31.8 F
Tuesday, February 27, 2024
HomeCommentaryProphetic Grace in a Manger

Prophetic Grace in a Manger


Related stories

From the Wilderness into New Life: Everyone Can Participate in Lent

Lent thus offers a cluster of possibilities: fasting — or at least giving up something for Lent; repenting; joining Jesus in a wilderness experience; and experiencing the lengthening of days. Can everyone take part?

Black History Month for White People: Racism Is Our Problem

FāVS columnist Sarah Henn Hayward explores how racism in America is a White problem and what White Americans can do about it this Black History month.

Ask a Baha’i: Would a Christian need to pray to Bahá’u’lláh, not Jesus, if converting to the Baha’i faith?

If I followed the teaching of Baha’i would I need to change my lifelong relationship with Jesus? I wonder how can I, as a lifelong Christian, focus my prayers from Jesus to Bahá’u’lláh?

Muslims Calling for Peace in Gaza Have Been Answered with Rampant Islamophobia

Islamophobia, in other words, does not operate in a vacuum. It creates repercussions far beyond the Muslim community. It’s time our leaders took action. 

Nex Benedict Is Another Matthew Shepard 

On Feb. 7, Nex Benedict, a non-binary Owasso, Oklahoma, teen, was beaten to death in a girl’s restroom at Owasso High School by three older female students. So far, there is no sign the girls responsible have been arrested or even interviewed by police. 

By Paul Graves

When I held my infant son for the first time, I felt a powerful mix of joy and panic!  Perhaps you can relate. 

If so, try to imagine what Joseph and Mary felt as he laid the baby Jesus into the manger.  They both knew what angels had told them about this newborn child.  Their joy could have been overwhelmed with panic — at the very least, bewilderment.

As they wondered together about who they were parents of, did it really occur to them that this child was Emmanuel, “God with us”, God-in-the-flesh?  Did Mary remember her prayer to God in Elizabeth’s presence months before, the prayer we now call “Mary’s Magnificat”?

If she did, perhaps she pondered the notion that Jesus was God’s “prophetic grace in a manger.”  Mary’s prayer of praise is also a prayer of prophetic grace. 

Mary’s Words

Read her words:  The Lord has used his powerful arm to scatter those who are proud.  He drags strong rulers from their thrones and puts humble people in places of power.  God gives the hungry good things to eat, and sends the rich away with nothing. (Luke 1:51-53, The Poverty & Justice Bible)

Her prayer challenged the established cultural order with God’s alternative view of life, as all authentic prophesy did then, and still does.  Prophecy is much less about future forecasting, and more about offering a God’s-eye view of life as it is and will be when justice and love prevail. 

The birth of Jesus itself represents a decisive criticism of the dominant consciousness — of that time and our time. Mary’s prayer set the life-stage for her newborn being God becoming human so the world would know what being human was really about! 


As she rejoiced in “God my savior,” she affirmed the Jewish belief that salvation was less a hope to get into heaven. Jews understood salvation as “freedom or release from current circumstances:  slavery, poverty, ill health, hunger, and thirst. 

In her song, Mary is talking about salvation in the past and present, not about the far future.”  (Amy-Jill Levine, “Light of the World”)  It has a prophetic tone that tweaks current Christian belief about “salvation.”

When we celebrate Jesus’ birth only as a “Jesus sweet and mild” newborn, we unconsciously dismiss the radically prophetic message his birth and whole life embodied. Everything Jesus did challenged the religious and political status quo of his time.  And ours also!


Even his graciousness was prophetic.  His unconditional love for all people, even his “enemies,” and his compassionate actions challenged the cultural mentality of religious and economic privilege. 

Outrageously, he forgave persons, he healed (especially on the Sabbath), he ate and hung out with social outcasts, he challenged the Temple practices of sacrifice that exploited the poor. All were acts of compassion and grace. But they threatened the established social/religious order of his day.  God’s prophetic grace in action.

Grace, by definition, is unearned, unmerited!  It is a free gift that God built into our DNA, just waiting for us to discover it there.  That’s our real challenge. 

We cover over, even smother, that grace every time we embrace the notion that we need to earn God’s favor, or that grace is conditionally given by God according to some divine test we must pass, or God decides who gets/doesn’t get grace today.

Think about a cliché we all use:  “There but for the grace of God go I.”  I really resist that fickle God, deciding if my need is more “deserving”, or less, than yours.

That isn’t the prophetic grace lying in a manger that I visit this Christmas! 

Paul Graves
Paul Graves
Paul Graves is a retired and re-focused United Methodist pastor and a long-time resident of Sandpoint, Idaho, where he formerly served on city council and mayor. His second career is in geriatric social work, and since 2005 he's been the Lead Geezer-in-Training of Elder Advocates, a consulting and teaching ministry on aging issues. Since 1992, Graves has been a volunteer chaplain for Bonner Community Hospice. His columns regularly appear in The Spokesman-Review's Faith and Values section, and he also writes the Dear Geezer column for the Bonner County Daily Bee and is the host of the bi-weekly Geezer Forum on aging issues in Sandpoint.




0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Free Stuff
4 years ago

I am very happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.

4 years ago


The data mentioned in the report are several of the most effective obtainable.

4 years ago


Just beneath, are numerous absolutely not connected web-sites to ours, nevertheless, they’re surely really worth going over.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x